A Weekend Long Trip To Sikkim


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Gentlemen,

Last month had been on a weeklong trip to Sikkim. Going to north Bengal makes me somewhat irritated, as the main arterial road connecting Calcutta with Siliguri (NH 34), although been repaired recently and being upgraded to a divided four lane road, is always in bad stape. I have never found it in satisfactory condition. It is a completely undivided road, passing through densely populated areas, with lots of cycles, rickshaws, buses, trucks, roadside markets, etc, to make driving very difficult. Last year I made a trip by this road and the distance of slightly over 600 KM took me fifteen hours while going and fourteen hours while returning. This time I again made a bad decision to return by this road and was struck at a place named Dalkhola for over four hours, in a traffic jam. My friends usually make a trip by this road by driving at night, when the volume of traffic is low and there is lesser number of people on the road.

But a friend of mine once told me sometime earlier that he took some other road to travel to north Bengal. He recommended that I travel via Dumka, Bhagalpur and Purnea. Since then I was thinking of exploring that route but it effectively meant that I have to drive about 80 KM through the state of Jharkhand and I am not at all fond of Jharkhand roads. Just last December I had a very bad experience of travelling via NH6 (Calcutta Bombay Road), travelling from Jamshola (OR-JH Border) to Chichira (WB-JH Border), via Bahragora. In my opinion Jharkhand presently has the worst possible roads in the whole of India. But my friend said that the roads at least in those areas were manageable, so I decided to give it a try.

Left Calcutta shortly before four O’clock in the morning, accompanied by my wife and twelve year old daughter. As I stay in north Calcutta, with minimum traffic so early in the morning, could reach the toll bridge on river Hooghly (Ganga) in less than ten minutes, hitting NH2 (Calcutta Delhi Road) immediately.

My first brief stop was on the Azad Hind Dhaba on NH2, where I was the first customer. Had to wake up those people up though. But they immediately helped us with coffee. Here is a photo of me, almost religiously cleaning up the windshield and the headlamp.

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Crossed Barddhaman soon. Just after Barddhaman there is a road which goes towards Bolpur (NH 2B). Of course it is a very good road, though undivided and two lane. The distance is also lesser here. But I was not much familiar with this road, so decided to take the Panagarh-Illambazar Road instead, as I had travelled by this road many a times. The road looked amazingly beautiful in the morning.

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The road to Dumka branches off the Panagarh-Moregram Road after Siuri town and immediately after Mayurakshi River, where there is a small barrage called Tilpara Barrage. The road even crosses through a small forest.

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The road was good when we entered Jharkhand. Small hills on the roadside were an added attraction.

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Soon reached Messanjore dam. And the road continued to be good, at least for the first twenty KM or so inside Jharkhand.

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But my luck soon was out and the road turned bad. The locals advised us to take a small road on my left, which were used by the small cars of the locality.

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I cannot say much about this road, except that it passes by a small airport, named Sidhu Kanu Airport. From there the road improves till Dumka town. From Dumka town the road goes to a small town named Hansdiha, which is three or four KM ahead of Bihar-Jharkhand border. It is this road which may be some concern, in case any one of you ever needs to use this road. It is full of unexpected potholes and speed breakers. Please try to drive it in less than moderate speeds.

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But after night comes the day. And soon the state of Bihar arrived. In my opinion, this state boasts of the best possible roads in eastern India. Incredibly good roads. No speed breakers. Proper signboards showing the directions and distances.

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It is only in Bhagalpur town where I had stopped to seek direction. From the Google map, I knew I had to cross the bridge on river Ganga (Bikramshila Bridge). Here is the approach to the bridge.

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Passed the bridge at exactly 12 noon. I had my lunch in a dhaba, about 20 KM after Bhagalpur, on my way to Purnea. Slightly better than average food but it was good that they also had separate clean toilets for ladies. The road to Purnea was being widened, as I could see. But no cause for concern, as it had minimum traffic. And Punea had a properly marked bypass road. Crossed Purnea slightly before three O’clock, from where Siliguri is just a breeze, with an excellent four lane divided road.

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Reached Siliguri a few minutes before five and checked in to Mainak Hotel, run by West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation. Although I could clearly see that their services had come down over the years and the rooms deserved a facelift, it is very near to NH 31 and has a secured parking lot.

Thanks for reading. Shall post the remaining portion of my journey soon.

Regards,
Rahul Biswas
Calcutta
 
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Thread Starter #4
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Gentlemen,

Next morning left the hotel at 9 O’clock. I had intention of leaving earlier but the free (please read complimentary) breakfast offered by the hotel was a temptation. However, came to see that the hotel only offered Puri and Sabji for breakfasts, although after little persuasion we were offered bread, butter and omelets. Had them finished and started the car. The hotel was almost on the highway (NH 31), so soon reached the highway and attained a good speed. Although the road was busy, yet the traffic was disciplined and clocking a speed slighly in excess of 80 KMPH was not a problem. Managed to follow one NHPC owned white SUV in front, which was keeping good pace. The road was very much scenic too.

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Just after crossing the railway level crossing there was a small traffic jam. But except for one or two army vehicles, no one broke the queue and started overtaking us. I also understood that obeying the traffic rules is the custom here, so stopped and waited. Fortunately the traffic jam only lasted for 20-25 minutes.

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To reach both Pelling and Ravangla, one has almost to reach for a small town named Melli (and Melli-Nayabazar Road). The Gangtok bound road goes straight and I had to cross the river by turning right and reach the other side of the river. Last time at the Sikkim border I was asked to show my car’s registration papers but this time they simply asked for my destination and waved me in. I filled up petrol from a pump immediately, located barely a hundred feet away. Petrol is cheaper in Sikkim by at least Rs 5/- then in West Bengal.

The roads in Sikkim are not all that good, compared to what I had seen last year, may be due to the effect of a big earthquake sometime ago. The road may be good for a Scorpio or a Bolero or an Innova or any other SUV type car. But with a sedan or a car having lower ground clearance one has to be extra careful. Incidentally, I have not seen any Honda (a car I am very fond of) in Sikkim, maybe except for one or two. But the road improves to your satisfaction when you hit the Damthang bound road, which goes to Namchi (and Ravangla). Please have a look on the road.

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Namchi is a small town where a big statue of Lord Shiva is located. Altogether there are four temples in this complex, possibly this is the reason it is also called "Chardham".

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There is also a very tall statue of Guru Rimpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim, known as Samdruptse. This is also located on small a small hill with a motorable road and the view from the top is really enjoyable.

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Reached Ravangla in less than five hours, starting from Siliguri. Located at 7000 ft, it is the town with highest elevation in the whole of south Sikkim. Please do not forget to see the “Gandhi Park” there, which is an added attraction for the children. A view of the town from my hotel room.

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Sunrise point, near Ravangla. Stopped here to retrieve the fallen wheel cap of my car.

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A photo of me and my car, in front of the main entrance of the hotel. Spent two days in this hotel before leaving for Pelling.

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Thanks for reading. Please excuse me if the writing is not up to your satisfaction.

Regards,
Rahul Biswas,
Calcutta.
 
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Varun560061

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Nice pic's.. good write up too.

OT : You can tie up the wheel caps using zip tags so that it wont fall off every now and then.
 
Thread Starter #8
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Gentlemen,
After spending two days in Ravangla, started for Pelling. Was surprised to find out that the road which led us there (via Namchi and Damthang), passing through in front of my hotel continued further into Legship town. I remembered Legship town from my visit of last year, where there was an hydroelectric project coming up (on River Rangeet) and also there was a tunnel where muddy water kept falling continuously from the ceiling. The road condition was poor, though undoubtedly very scenic. It improved somewhat after Geyzing town.
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Checked into my hotel at around one O'clock at noon, starting at about half past eight. Please allow me to show a view of my hotel.
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The balcony of my room in the back of the hotel, with my wife standing.
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This is the cloud and mist at around half past seven in the morning of the next day.
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A view of the mighty Kanchanjangha from my room, when the sun finally shone after ten in the morning and the clouds lifted. Sorry I do not have an expensive camera to give you a better picture.
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In the afternoon I went to see Rabdentse Ruins. Please see about it here:-
Rabdentse - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
And some photos from my side, including a picture of two fine gentlemen, sitting near the gate, possibly acting as sentries.
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Three Chortens.
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Some other pictures.
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An interesting place worth visiting is also the nearby Singshore bridge, which is only fifteen KM or so from Pelling. The road passes through a small town named Dentam, where a good dairy firm named "Alpine Dairy" is located. A visit to them assures one of good quality of milk, butter, cheese and even beef. Although I took a few photos of the bridge myself, I shall like you to see these images instead, as they are of much better quality. Please take this link:-
Singshore Bridge
And the evening was pleasant, with a temperature of about twenty degrees or so. A view from the balcony of my room.
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A view of Pelling town from the helipad, which is the highest place in Pelling.
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Next morning went to see the Kanchanjangha Falls and Yaksum. The road was slightly better.
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Waterfalls are very common in Sikkim and often may be seen from the car. Here is one.
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The Kanchanjangha falls.
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The same road continues further to Yaksum. It is a place much frequented by the foreigners, as I could see. There was a holy place on the top of a hill, which I was little hesitant at first to reach due to the steep gradient of the road. But my seven year old car (Indigo GLX-MPFI, 83000+ KM) saved my prestige and climbed gracefully. I was told that the ancient kings of Sikkim was crowned there.
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Pelling is the closest motorable place to Mt. Kanchanjangha. I think a visit there for two or three days is always quite nice. I stayed for three days there, before coming down to the plains of Siliguri.
Thanks for reading.
Regards,
Rahul
 
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Rahul Biswasji, that was an absolute stunning pics of Nature, those mountains covered with Ice is a treat to our eyes.

I just saw the pics, all of them were treat to the eyes.

I like to drive on no roads, that was a stunning beauty amidst nature, though roads were not good.

The monastery seems to be located amongst the nature, which I always admire to visit such places.
 
Thread Starter #10
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those mountains covered with Ice is a treat to our eyes. I just saw the pics, all of them were treat to the eyes.
Thanks, Sir. A visit to Sikkim is always wonderful.

I like to drive on no roads, that was a stunning beauty amidst nature, though roads were not good.
Sir, please remember that roadside mechanics are not available in these places and at the most what you may expect is a tyre puncture repair shop. And driving a car having lower ground clearance was difficult. I was fortunate that the tyres (Michelin XM1+) stood rock solid and did not suffer any leak.
 
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Thanks, Sir. A visit to Sikkim is always wonderful.


Sir, please remember that roadside mechanics are not available in these places and at the most what you may expect is a tyre puncture repair shop. And driving a car having lower ground clearance was difficult. I was fortunate that the tyres (Michelin XM1+) stood rock solid and did not suffer any leak.
Biswasji I am no sir, you can call me Mukesh.[:)]

Btw what is the route you followed, because I couldn't find route map via Google maps.
 
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Fantastic travelogue and excellent pics, the pic of kanchenjunga had me mesmerised! Many Thanks Sir for posting these for us less fortunate!
 
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Btw what is the route you followed, because I couldn't find route map via Google maps.
Pretty simple. This is the road from the Google map.
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I think you search for direction from Siliguri to Ravangla in Google Map and this is possibly what you exactly end up with. In case you are seeking the route I took from Calcutta to Siliguri, please let me know and I shall send you details.
 
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Hi Rahul,

Thanks for the journey details. Very helpful as I am planning something in Dec this year to that area (specifically Temi Tea Gardens).

Interested in your route through Dumka / Bhagalpur.

What was the total distance clocked and if you have a detailed log of this route.

Great writing. Great pictures. Sure your family enjoyed the trip as much I enjoyed reading it.
 
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Thanks for the journey details. Very helpful as I am planning something in Dec this year to that area (specifically Temi Tea Gardens).
Thanks. I was also interested to spend one or two days in this Temi Tea Garden. But unfortunately a travel agent quoted me a very high charge, which was beyond my capacity. I also had no way of knowing whether the rate mentioned (about Rs 5000/- a day, inclusive of meals) was genuine or they simply quoted an enhanced amount.
Interested in your route through Dumka / Bhagalpur.
Chandranathda, I have already read your trip reports in this forum and heard much about you from my friends, who always held you in very high esteem. It is really unfortunate of me that I have never met you yet. And as a travel enthusiast I think that a brief mention of the route will be sufficient for you. But in case you have any doubt, please contact me for further clarification and details and I shall be delighted to help.
This route was suggested to me by a friend, who frequently takes this route for going to north Bengal. And I now believe that it is a much better route compared to NH 34. The only drawback of this route is that it is not suggested if you travel by night, obviously for security reasons. Please take the Panagarh-Moregram Road and bypass Siuri town. You are surely aware that Tilpara barrage will come up shortly. I am sure you must have travelled by this road many times but in case anyone is not familiar with it, here is a picture of the barrage.
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Immediately after crossing the barrage take the first road on your left. In case of any doubt, this place is called Sheorakuri More and the said road goes to Messanjore Dam and Dumka town. From Dumka town drive to Bhagalpur. You will never get lost anywhere, even if you do not have a GPS device like me. It is only about 70-80 KM of road in total, between Messanjore and Bhagalpur, located entirely in the state of Jharkhand, which may be of concern to you, due to it's poor road condition and innumerable speed breakers. But nothing that you can not manage with little patience and some careful driving, that too for something much less than three hours. Please rest assured, at the end you will end up reaching Siliguri in shorter time, compared to when travelling by NH 34. And driving in the roads of Bihar is a pleasure.
What was the total distance clocked and if you have a detailed log of this route.
I had a log in a piece of paper but seem to have lost it now. But I do remember that the distance is about eighty KM more than the distance when you travel by Calcutta-Panagarh-Moregram-Maldah Town-Dalkhola-Siliguri route. If you take the Bardhaman-Bolpur-Siuri Road (NH 2B), the distance will be reduced further. But I did not opt for this route as I was not much familiar with this road.
Great writing. Great pictures. Sure your family enjoyed the trip as much I enjoyed reading it.
Thanks. An appreciation from such a veteran like you is always inspiring.
Warm regards,
Rahul
 
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